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Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: What’s the difference?

tesla model 3 vs tesla model y: lede
(Image credit: Tesla/Tom's Guide)

Outside of poorly acted SNL appearances, Elon Musk has done a tremendous job at positioning the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y as must have electric cars. In fact, Tesla now has a greater EV market value than the nine largest automakers combined; let's call it Musk Effect.

While not as flashy or premium as the Model S and Model X, both 3 and Y have a lot to offer. So when it comes down to Tesla Model 3 vs the Tesla Model Y, which car is going to be right for you? That's what we hope to answer below. 

Both are strikingly similar at first glance. The Model 3 is your more traditional four-door sedan, while the Model Y is a crossover hatchback SUV. Actually, both cars are built on the same platform, reportedly sharing around 75% of the same parts. Still 25% is still a lot of difference, so let’s break down exactly what you should expect when choosing between the Model 3 and Model Y.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Specs

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y
Tesla Model 3Tesla Model Y
PriceFrom $39,990From $53,990
Range353 miles326 miles
Top Speed140mph135mph
0-60mph5.3 seconds4.8 seconds
Extra featuresAutopilot, Sentry mode, App control, wireless charger, tinted glass roofAutopilot, Sentry mode, App control, wireless charger, flat folding seats, tinted glass roof, heated seats and steering wheel

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Price

Tesla model 3 vs tesla model Y: price

(Image credit: Tesla)

The Tesla Model 3 is the cheapest car in Tesla’s portfolio, with a starting price of $39,990 for the ‘Standard Range Plus’ model. That is the entry level model, with what passes for bare bones features where Tesla is concerned. Those of you with a bit more cash can also pick up the Long Range model for $49,990 and the Performance model for $56,690.

The Model Y is a little bit more expensive as there's no ‘standard’ model on sale in the U.S. Instead, Tesla jumps right in at the Long Range model, which will cost you $53,990. The Performance model costs $60,990. 

So if you want a Tesla, but want to spend as little as possible, go for the Model 3. Not only is the Standard Range Plus model $14,000 cheaper than the cheapest Model Y, it also packs in more range for those extra-long road trips.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Design and interior

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: interior

(Image credit: Tesla)

The Tesla Model 3 is a sedan, while the Model Y is a hatchback SUV. Naturally that comes with a few differences in the overall look of the car and what you get on the inside.

Being a sedan means the Model 3 has a much sleeker and sportier profile than the Model Y. It’s closer to the ground, and has a much flatter hood. However, that design comes with some drawbacks, as you’ll only find 15 cubic feet of trunk space. 

The Model Y comes with 36 cubic feet, on account of the noticeably larger SUV design. It’s two inches longer and wider than the Model 3, as a whopping seven inches taller. While you can squeeze five people into a Model 3, the Model Y’s larger design means they’re going to be a lot more comfortable on long drives.

Tesla model 3 vs tesla model y: interior seats

Tesla Model Y's flat-fold seats (Image credit: Tesla)

You also have the option for a third row in the Model Y, which means you can get seven people in there. The Model Y also has an optional tow hitch, which the Model 3 lacks, though it will cost you an extra $3,000

As for the rest of the design, there isn’t much more to differentiate the two EVs. The dash is nearly identical, and you'll get the same glass roof, 15-inch touchscreen control panel, wireless charger, cup holders, power-adjustable seats and vegan-friendly “softer than leather” interior.

The Model Y does come with a few extra features, though, including heated front and back seats, a heated steering wheel, LED foglamps, and flat-fold rear seats. Because it’s an SUV and that last one is usually pretty helpful.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Power

Tesla model 3 vs Tesla model Y: range

(Image credit: TeslA)

The power you get with the Tesla Model 3 all depends on which version of the car you purchase. All of them pack in two motors, but the Standard Plus only comes with rear-wheel drive. Long Range and performance models come with all wheel drive, and that offers a little bit more oomph.

So the Standard Model 3 will go from 0-60 in 5.3 seconds, and has a top speed of 140mph. Long Range and Performance manage to get to 60mph in a respective 4.2 and 3.1 seconds, and each have top speeds of 145mph and 162mph.

The Model Y isn’t quite as good in this respect. While all models have all wheel drive and beat the Standard Model 3, its acceleration and top speed are lower than the equivalent Model 3. Long Range manages 0-60 in 4.8 seconds, while the Performance manages it in 3.5 seconds. Both models have a respective 135mph and 155 mph top speed.

The Model Y is only a fraction of a second slower than Model 3, and chances are you won’t even get close to that top speed on a public road. But for those obsessed with the highest numbers, or who want to take part in some drag racing, the Model 3 has the edge.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Battery and range

Tesla model 3 vs model y: power

(Image credit: Tesla)

Once again the range you can expect is all dependent on which model of car you purchase. And there’s a very obvious correlation with bigger batteries making your car last longer.

If you pick up a Standard Range Plus Model 3, you can expect to get 263 miles out of the 52kWh battery. The 2021 Long Range and Performance models offer an 82kWh battery, and come with a respective 353 and 315 miles of range. That difference is something to consider, and it means choosing between range and driving power.

The Tesla Model Y has a 72kWh battery, and you can expect to get 326 miles out of the Long Range model and 303 miles out of the Performance model. That difference in range will be down to the smaller battery, as well as the Model Y’s larger design. That’s the sacrifice you have to make for having room to put more stuff (and people) inside your car.

The Model 3 recharges faster, with Tesla claiming it can regain 175 miles of range in 15 minutes, while the Model Y can only get 162 miles in the same time. Though all variants of the cars can now enjoy the full force of Tesla's V3 250kW Supercharging network

So if you want to maximize range and optimize recharge time, the Model 3 is the car to pick.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Autopilot and other features 

Tesla model 3 vs tesla model y: autopilot

(Image credit: Tesla)

In terms of special features, both cars have the standard Tesla suite. That includes basic Autopilot, that comes with basic autonomous steering, acceleration and braking, lane assist, collision warnings and blind-spot alarms. 

The “Full Self-Driving package” is also available on both for cars, either as a one time purchase of $10,000, or it can be accessed with Tesla's $199 a month FSD subscription service. Both the Model 3 and Model Y included Tesla's Full Self Driving Computer 3.0 from day one. So you shouldn't have to pay an additional $1,000 to have your computer upgraded, which has happened to owners of some older Model S and Model Xs.

It's worth reminding people that this isn’t complete Level 5 autonomous driving. Instead this lets you navigate on freeways, change lanes automatically, automatically park, a summon option, as well as light and stop sign recognition.

Both cars also come with a sentry mode that monitors the surrounding area when the car is unattended, a glass roof shielded from UV and infra-red light, over the air updates and mobile app support. Inside they have the same 15-inch touchscreen control panel, a wireless charging pad, and “advanced climate control”.

The Model Y gets a few extra bits, however, including heated seats (front and rear), a heated steering wheel, flat-fold rear seats, LED fog lamps, and a “premium” audio system that included 14 speakers, two amps and one subwoofer. 

All car models get complimentary access to Tesla’s premium connectivity service, which offers live traffic visualizations, satellite-view maps, video and music streaming, a ‘Careoke’ mode and an internet browser. The Standard Range plus Model 3 only has 30 days of free access, while all the other models get it for one year.

Tesla Model 3 vs Tesla Model Y: Outlook 

tesla model 3 vs tesla model y: outlook

(Image credit: Tesla)

Which Tesla you buy is completely dependent on what you want to get out of your car. The Model 3 easily wins on both range and performance, if you’re only looking at the numbers. But you have to sacrifice interior space as a result.

The Model Y isn’t far behind in terms of both range and power, though the benefit of owning one is that you can fit a lot more stuff inside. You can still hold a lot in the Model 3’s trunk, but you might want to be mindful of its limitations before you try and fill it with Ikea furniture.

The Model Y comes with a few extra luxuries. While you may not care about heated seats and a heated steering wheel, those features are more than welcome on those cold winter days. Once you have them, you’re never going to want to lose them.

But the reality is that both cars are very similar. The price difference between comparable models isn’t huge, and honestly, both are  going to look very similar to the untrained eye. When it comes down to it, it all just depends on what you need your car for.

Families and other people who can take advantage of the size of an SUV will want the Model Y. If you want a Tesla on the cheap, or you want to maximize the amount of range or power your car has, then the Model 3 is for you. There’s no wrong answer, and you’ll get a pretty similar Tesla experience regardless of choice.

Tom Pritchard

Tom is the Tom's Guide's Automotive Editor, which means he can usually be found knee deep in stats the latest and best electric cars, or checking out some sort of driving gadget. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining that Ikea won’t let him buy the stuff he really needs online. 

  • Willemvd
    “Both the Model 3 and Model Y included Tesla's Full Self Driving Computer 3.0 from day one.”

    Wrong. Hardware 3.0 was introduced mid production of the model 3. The first model 3 was produced in July 2017. Hardware 3.0 was added in March 2019. So there are a lot of Model 3 cars for which an upgrade is necessary parallel tot Model X and S to enable FSD.